Distance Learning Program

Introduction

The use of distance learning during the global coronavirus pandemic poses enormous challenges for both teachers and parents. We, the school community of GISNY, are proud of the high-quality education we are providing our students during these unprecedented times. In the middle and high school (grades 5 to 12), this is achieved by moving face-to face classroom lessons in the building into a digital form.    

Technology Basics

The fundamental basis for this is that all students have hardware (computers, Chromebooks etc.) with suitable internet, a digital communication platform and numerous digital tools that are routinely used by teachers.

1.  Computers       

All students in grades 5 to 12 have a computer available at home. This is ensured by various measures:

  • Grades 9 to 12: All students have a laptop according to the guidelines Bring Your Own Device, which has been implemented at GISNY for many years.    
  • Grades 5 to 8: Many students use their own device or the equipment of their parents. All children who do not have their own device at their disposal receive a loan device from the school (Chromebook).           

Since cloud-based services are mainly used in class (see below), the technical requirements for the devices are comparatively low.

2.  Online Platform

Microsoft Teams are used as communication platform.

This platform enables:

  • Video meetings          
  • Chat  
  • Setting and collecting assignments
  • Work as an individual / partner / group
  • Individual teacher feedback 
  • Maintaining class community and social contacts of the students through team meetings
  • and many more         

3.  Digital Tools             

To allow for different learning environments in distance learning, teachers use a variety of cloud-based programs with the students: 

  • Office365 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Outlook)    
  • Kahoot     
  • Edpuzzle                      
  • Bettermarks                                                           
  • and many more                

Since the use of eLearning requires basic computer competencies on the part of all those involved, both students and teachers were introduced to this new phase of learning and continue to receive training.

 
Daily Implementation

We continue to teach the students according to their regular class schedule. We consider regular contact with the students via video, exchange between the students, and individual feedback by the teacher as essential for the learning success in the time of distance learning.           

This approach requires the physical presence of teachers and students during virtual classes via Microsoft Teams. In addition, there has been no change in the schedule for middle and high school students. That means students have a routine and know what subjects are taught each day.

MS Teams are used to create work assignments, write quizzes, and conduct classroom conversations. Even class tests and exams can be written using a set procedure. Using the chat or call function, students can ask the teacher for help or work on assignments with their classmates at any time.

To limit the amount of time students spend in front of the screens, project-oriented methods/tasks are increasingly used. In addition, there are long-term art projects and a variety of sports programs that give the students the opportunity to learn outside the computer screen.

Communication with parents is also a high priority. For example, we hold parent-teacher conferences with Teams or regularly obtain informal feedback at our weekly Parent Association Wine & Cheese Zoom meeting.

The success of our eLearning depends on careful planning by our dedicated teachers, both motivation and commitment on the part of the students, and strong support from parents for this alternative form of teaching. The result of such learning experiences will enhance the academic progress of our students and promote their social and emotional well-being.

Outlook

Our eLearning approach is a new journey for all of us. The existing technical infrastructure has made it easier for us to get started. To further develop our approach, a comprehensive evaluation of the first 10 weeks of Distance Learning @GISNY is currently being conducted. Colleagues, parents, and students were interviewed. We are determined to learn and grow from this extraordinary experience.

We assume that in the coming school year lessons in the school building will be possible again. Nevertheless, we will continue to integrate elements of Distance Learning @GISNY into our everyday school life,  be it to prepare for future school closures, to teach absent students at the same time or to make our lessons even more varied and effective.